I am going to Europe this year for the first time, by myself. I will begin in Amsterdam to get over jet lag and hopefully do some sight seeing before joining one of Rick's tours. I am just beginning to do research and am hoping to gather some good tips here. Is Amsterdam safe for a single female? What should I see? What should I avoid? Where is a good place to stay? Any and all tips would be welcome. Thank you in advance.
You will have a wonderful time! I would suggest you stay at the RS hotel prior to the tour if you can get in. Are you on the 21 day tour that stays in Haarlem? I did the 21 day last August and found it quite easy to travel in to Amsterdam to tour. There are a number of threads on the Tours forum for people doing the 21 day tour and where they are staying ahead of time. If you are concerned about buying a ticket and not being able to speak the language, EVERYONE I have ever dealt with at the Amsterdam Centraal Station and the Haarlem station spoke more English than I spoke Dutch and could easily help me with the ticket purchases.
As far as what to see, check your tour Itinerary to see what your tour is covering and then there is enough to keep you busy for months! I was just there 1 night ahead of my tour (having stayed in London for a few days prior) so went in to Amsterdam to do the Dutch Resistance Museum. I had also been to Amsterdam before so had narrowed down what I wanted to see. Do you like art? The Van Gogh Museum is probably not on your tour itinerary and if you are on the 21 Day tour you will not have time to see it on your full day in Amsterdam, trust me on this, lol. There is a Maritime Museum many like (I was not crazy about it) and dozens of other museums. Amsterdam is also a very cool city to just wander around in!
BTW, being solo on one of Rick's tours is wonderful! I have done 2 solo, 3 with my Brother/SIL and thoroughly enjoyed them! If you are going the 21 day tour, you might be interested in my Trip Report. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/21-day-best-of-europe-8-26-14 Or you might not, lol. I did include some things I feel are important to consider as a solo tour traveler.
Try not to worry. You may find you really enjoy it. It is my preferred way to travel – I find I meet more people when I'm on my own. Just use the same kind of caution you would use in a major American city that is new to you. Also, your hotel can tell you if there are any areas you should avoid – I find hotels to be hyper-cautious in their advice.
A few things that help me when traveling on my own. When I get to a new city, I almost always take a taxi or shuttle to my hotel the first time – that way, somebody who knows the city is getting me to the right place. I find this particularly helpful when I'm jet lagged. I also choose hotels in a central location, which helps me avoid wandering around lost, and I tend to stay in smaller places where there's a little more personal attention. Packing really light is also critical for me since I'm small and 60ish -- that way I'm not distracted by trying to drag around lots of luggage, and I don't need to find someone help me with my luggage.
Enjoy your trip!
Hi Laurie. I have travelled solo many times. I have been to Amsterdam with family, so I was not alone. I did find it to appear very safe. Usually, if the tour starts there, I would recommend staying in the same hotel as the tour. I have to search for the hotel we used, it was very central and we walked to everything. We took a tram from the train station and maybe a taxi to the port where we started a river cruise.
We walked and walked along the canals, I cannot remember the museum we visited, near the I am Amstedam sign. One of the larger museums was under rehabilitation, so we only visited one. We walked by the Anne Frank house but did not visit, the lines were long.
I think we spent 2 nights there, so we did not see everything. We did walk through the red light district in the early evening when it was dark. If you do go there, I suggest doing it early. There were tons of tourists and I did find it creepy and it saddened me. I had seen it years before on another tour; I think we went later in the evening and it was so crowded that I was afraid I would lose the group.
I have done 2 RS tours solo and 2 with family & freinds. I have signed up for the Best of Spain solo,and have added over a week before the tour and will start in France where I have been before, in Villefranche-sur-Mer and make my way to near Barcelona on my own before the start. I also have a few days at the end of the tour to see more that the tour did not get to.
I love the tours and found that sometimes I did want a meal on my own and other times I had others ask me to join them in free time and meals in our own. One thing I learned is to research what I might do when I have free time, so I have choices of things to do, but I often just go with the flow, so I might not see everything I researched. Maybe I sat in a park for a while, or sat in a cafe for a couple of hours. Sometimes I had a nap on a free afternoon. One tour, on a free morning, I found many tour members having a very late breakfast, having a lie in lazy morning as the tour was fast paced. We all had a giggle over that while enjoying a second cup of coffee. I find if I do not do research, I waste time figuring out what to do. I thought I would have time in the evening to plan, but some meals on tour end late and if I wash a few things in the sink or re-pack/re-organize my suitcase, there is not much time left in the evening. I am not a morning person, so If the tour is movning to a new place the next morning, I want to have my "stuff" ready to go, but I find with showering in the am, and putting away the clothes that were hanging up and drying, it still takes me a bit. Collecting the camera battery charger, the ipad & iphone charger, all take a bit of time. I keep my packing list out to double check I have packed everything, it helps me not stress over leaving something behind.
Enjoy your trip.
Yes, Amsterdam is quite safe for a female traveling solo. It's very compact, you can easily walk around and it also has a terrific network of public transit (trams, subway, ferry, buses, etc.). Pretty much everyone speaks multiple languages, with English being the primary one following Dutch. Many signs are in English as well as Dutch.
On my first solo trip, I stayed in a hotel located on the Herengracht canal and it was just a few minutes walking distance from The Jordaan and De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets) area and the tram stops that headed over to Museumplein where the Rijks and VanGogh are located.
Coming back through Amsterdam a 2nd time as a solo female traveler, I stayed a few minutes from Leidseplein - a square that is very centrally located and within walking distance to Museumplein and Vondelpark.
Either area would be fine for a first time visitor - just depends what type of experience you like better - near The Jordaan & Nine Streets, it was a bit quieter at night. By Leidseplein, it's a lot more active and bustling (but I did not find it was excessively noisy).
One of the places I actively tried to avoid late at night was the Red Light District. It's perfectly fine to walk through there during the day, but by around 10PM the crowds walking through there are loud, generally have been drinking or smoking weed, and it's just a bit skeevy for a solo female. The area immediately around Amsterdam Centraal is also not really some place that I would linger too long after the sun goes down. A lot of trains, trams, buses and the subway originate or end at Centraal, but like train stations in lots of urban areas (including the US), you can encounter a certain amount of odd characters loitering around - so conduct your business quickly and move on.
Again, whatever the RS Tour does not cover in Amsterdam is what I would focus on seeing - as well as maybe some of the major sites that may be included, but you won't get to spend a lot of time at. For example, I really love art museums - but the Rijks is enormous and while I would assume Rick's tour stops there and covers some of the highlights, it likely would not be nearly enough time for me to feel like I really got to see the Rijks, so that would be something I'd want to do in the days immediately preceding the start of the tour. People could make better suggestions if you let us know more about the kind of things you really enjoy (art - museums or small galleries, history, shopping at boutique stores or flea/craft markets, biking, foodie experiences, photography, etc.) and what you don't like to do (ex. some people can't spend more than 1 hour in a museum without getting bored). Asking what you should see or avoid is really subjective - start researching your guides and read articles on the internet about Amsterdam and then as you note something that seems interesting to you, you can ask for input on others experiences there.
If you decide to stay in the bigger city instead of your tour hotel, I suggest Hotel Brouwer in Amsterdam, which has a couple of very affordable single rooms in a quaint, historic building, and also good Wi-Fi and breakfast. There are a few prostitute windows on the same street, but it does not feel unsafe.
what you want to see will depends on what floats your boat.
There are some museums, like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Rembrandt's house and of course Anne Franks House along with others.
If youre into science, theres the NEMO. Its close to the train station. you cant miss it since it looks like a ships bow and its green.
If youre into ships, old ships, theres the Maritime Museum next door more or less to the NEMO.
You can wonder around Dam Square, or if youre into Hard Rock Cafes, theres one there too.
If you have some time, i would wonder around town. I find that Amsterdam is a really walkable city.
they have canal rides, but i didnt do them when i was there.
There Vondelpark. If youre into riding horses, theres a stable nearby, but they dont offer any rides into the park.
as far as safety goes, i will let the woman speak.
It can be a lot of fun to see Amsterdam by bike. There are daily rentals - I think the ones at the train station are more expensive. There are probably more bikes than cars - this is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world , and you'll feel like a local!
I'm going to chime in and agree that it's fine for a single female traveler. I did it when I was very young and now more recently when I am much older and neither time did I feel unsafe. I also want to second staying at the Hotel Brouwer. I stayed in one of their single rooms and it looked right out onto the canal. Bring your ear plugs though as city hotels can be noisy. I live in NYC and use them almost every night.
Thank you everyone for your posts, tips and advice! I will be flying into Amsterdam first before joining the Germany tour. I am an artist and want to sketch while I am in Europe. I know in Amsterdam I want to see the Van Gogh museum as I'm a fan of his work. I would love to do a bicycle tour! I will re-read all your posts and then look at areas and hotels, etc. Thanks again to you all. I have been busy reading guide books but feel very overwhelmed. It's funny, on one hand I feel I should be very prepped for the trip and on the other hand I just want to go and see what's what. !!!
Laurie, as an artist you are going to have a wonderful time! There is so much to see from big scenery (Alps!) to small details like flower pots. Make sure you walk thru the flower market area in Amsterdam just because the displays in the little flower sales tents are so colorful and pleasingly arranged. Are you taking a camera too? On the tour there will be times you will be moving too fast for you to sketch so a photo might have to do for a point of recall.
If you want to make a bicycle tour through picturesque places go to Waterland just north-east of Amsterdam with little places like Durgerdam, Ransdorp, Holysloot etc..